See-through Zebrafish May Hold Clues to Ovarian Cancer

by Greg Watry

For thousands of years, animals have helped humans advance biomedical research. Early Greeks, such as Aristotle and Galen, studied animals to gain insights into anatomy, physiology and pathology. Today, model organisms, like mice, help researchers understand human diseases, opening the door to potential defenses and new therapies.

Postdoc Dena Leerberg, and Bruce Draper, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences, study reproductive development in zebrafish. David Slipher/UC Davis

“Smart” Immune Cells: Emerging Cancer Therapy Research at UC Davis Boosted with NIH Award

By David Slipher

Assistant Professor Sean Collins, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences, has received a $1.5 million award from the National Institutes of Health to advance the development of “smart” immune cells for therapies to treat cancer and other diseases. The five-year NIH Director’s New Innovator Award aims to provide new insight into how to engineer immune cells to control their recruitment and response to tumors.

Sean Collins

Assistant professor Sean Collins has received a NIH New Innovator award for work to make cancer therapies safer. Fred Greaves, UC Davis

DNA Repair Gone Wrong Leads to Cascade of Chromosome Rearrangements

Homologous Recombination Can Cause More Breaks As It Fixes Them

The traditional view of cancer is that a cell has to sustain a series of hits to its DNA before its defenses break down enough for it to turn cancerous. But cancer researchers have also found that cells can experience very rapid and widespread DNA damage that could quickly lead to cancer or developmental defects.

Now researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found that these complex chromosomal rearrangements can be triggered in a single event when a process used to repair DNA breaks, homologous recombination, goes wrong. The work is published Aug. 10 in the journal Cell.

Study Reveals How Dietary Fats May Contribute To Tumor Growth

By Kathy Keatley Garvey

Researchers in Professor Bruce Hammock’s laboratory at UC Davis are studying mechanisms involved in blocking angiogenesis — the formation of new blood vessels. The findings may lead to new methods for preventing cancer growth and targeting other diseases, the researchers report.

Postdoc Amy Rand is studying how certain fats can affect growth of blood vessels in tumors.

Postdoc Amy Rand is studying how certain fats can affect growth of blood vessels in tumors.

A recently-published study from Hammock’s lab describes a novel lipid-signaling molecule that can change fundamental biological processes involved in human health and disease. It builds on landmark research by the Judah Folkman laboratory of Harvard Medical School, which earlier showed that cutting off blood vessels that feed a cancerous tumor could stop its growth.

World’s First Total-Body PET Scanner Takes A Big Step Forward

The UC Davis-based EXPLORER consortium, which aims to build a revolutionary total-body PET (positron emission tomography) scanner, has announced the selection of two industry partners to help build the prototype device. They are United Imaging Healthcare America, a North American subsidiary of Shanghai United Imaging Healthcare, and SensL Technologies of Cork, Ireland.

Positron emission tomography, or PET, scanning uses short-lived radioactive tracers to show how organs and tissues are functioning in the body, while magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scans mostly show anatomy. PET scans are widely used to diagnose and track a variety of illnesses, including cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Mouse study of breast cancer vaccine

Researchers lead by Michael DeGregorio and Greg Wurz at the UC Davis Cancer Center are beginning a study of a vaccine against breast cancer. Stimuvax, developed by Merck, targets MUC1, a molecule found in 90 percent of breast cancers. Working with lab mice, the researchers will test whether the vaccine can slow or prevent the growth of cancers when used in combination with standard hormone-blocking therapies.

To test the vaccine, the researchers will use mice bred to express the human MUC1 gene and a gene that causes spontaneous breast cancer.